Missouri senators on Thursday passed legislation aimed at shielding government whistleblowers from retaliation.
Senators voted 30-0 in favor of the bill, which would roll back a provision of a new law that Democratic sponsor Sen. Jill Schupp said inadvertently took away protections for state workers who report misconduct or other issues.
"This was required in order to make sure that our government employees throughout the state are protected when they blow the whistle on corruption, fraud and abuse," Schupp told reporters Thursday.
At issue is a recent law that drew opposition for raising the legal standard for proving discrimination in housing, employment or public accommodations. While it was lauded by business groups as a way to cut down on lawsuits and improve the state's legal climate, other groups warned it could make it harder for victims of discrimination to get justice. The Missouri NAACP cited it in a travel advisory the organization listed against the state.
The law took effect in August.
Schupp's bill would undo a separate portion of that law that she said took away whistleblower protections, and her measure would go further by shielding all public employees from retaliation, not just state workers.
The bill also would prohibit state agencies from requiring workers to sign confidentiality agreements if they settle legal disputes, and it puts the burden on public employers in lawsuits to prove that disciplinary action against staff was not done in retaliation.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe described it as a "tweak" to last year's bill. He said the goal is to ensure government workers are not afraid to report issues.
"That's how an organization gets better," he said.
The measure now heads to the House.